In the heart of Santiago, Chile, hundreds of women took to the streets with a resounding chant: “Not one step back.” Their demand? More action against gender-based violence and a more significant commitment from society to eradicate this scourge.
Organized by the Chilean Network Against Violence Towards Women, one of the leading advocacy groups in the country, the march aimed to draw attention to the urgent need for action against gender-based violence. According to their data, Chile has witnessed 40 femicides so far this year.
Among the passionate crowd of demonstrators, Verónica Álvarez shared her deeply personal reason for participating: “Twenty-five years ago, I was beaten and raped by my husband, and for many years, I’ve been attending these marches. I’m fighting for women who are going through the same ordeal and losing their voices. At some point, I, too, lost my voice.”
A few steps away, Valeria Breul from the Niñas Valientes Foundation highlighted a critical aspect of the fight against gender-based violence: breaking down gender stereotypes from a young age. She emphasized, “Gender stereotypes are internalized as early as age 5, which is why it’s crucial to empower young girls and involve them in this struggle.” On the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, observed since 1981, Chile’s Ministry of Women and Gender Equity launched the campaign “Let’s Reach Zero: We All Count to Reduce Violence Against Women.” Minister Antonia Orellana addressed the issue, acknowledging the prevailing challenges: “Most women in Chile already know this is a crime and can report it, but they don’t. Firstly, because they feel they won’t get justice. That’s why our ministry’s primary focus is to change the law. Secondly, another factor is the fear of being alone if we report.”
The grim reality is that at least 4,050 women fell victim to femicide in the region last year, according to the Gender Equality Observatory of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The march in Santiago serves as a stark reminder of the persistent and widespread issue of gender-based violence. It also highlights the strength and resilience of women who refuse to remain silent in the face of this grave injustice.
As the world observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Chilean women are sending a powerful message: It’s time for change. The fight against gender-based violence is not only a legal and social imperative but also a profoundly personal one, driven by the collective determination to build a safer and more equitable society for all.